Duchess presents British Empire Medals to dedicated residents
27 Oct 2021
Four Northumberland residents have been presented with British Empire Medals for their dedicated community and voluntary service.
The recipients were awarded their honours at a special investiture ceremony at Alnwick Castle by the Duchess of Northumberland, in her capacity as the Queen's Lord Lieutenant for the county.
The British Empire Medal (BEM) was revived in 2012 for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Year after it was disbanded in 1992. It is given to those engaging in voluntary work who have made a ‘hands-on’ contribution to their local community and recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters ‘BEM’.
Mr Eric Mordue Dickson from Blyth was awarded the BEM for services to Blind and Visually Impaired People in south east Northumberland. His compassion, enthusiasm and hard work has held together the organisation and production of the Talking Newspaper for 28 years during which the number of volunteers, readers and listeners have grown steadily. He developed this local audio magazine featuring local writers, Geordie poems and anecdotes and works tirelessly to ensure that members of an under-represented section of the community are included in knowing what is happening locally.
He set up equipment in his own home and was present at every recording session ensuring reader volunteers were confident and supported. He copied and edited the master recording and then delivered the tapes to recipients. He was instrumental in moving the system to digital MP3 recording and researched equipment, grants, learned the operations. He then trained the blind community using the technology.
Mrs Grace Friar from Berwick was awarded her BEM for substantial services to the community in Berwick-upon-Tweed. For many years Grace has undertaken hands on voluntary work, of 20 plus hours every week, at the Berwick Salvation Army Furniture Project. As an experienced seamstress she sorts, mends, prices and displays second-hand clothes; serves customers, trains others and has helped vulnerable and needy customers by buying them clothes using her own money. She is often on her feet all day as the centre can have 300 customers a day. The project has sold over 20 tonnes of donated clothing and raised over £50,000 for the Salvation Army work in Berwick, wider Northumberland and the Borders. Grace has visited Berwick High School helping pupils with their textile and design projects. She is also a ‘street’ collector for the Salvation Army and, for 60 years, the Royal British Legion. She was a Wren in the Second World War. She is modest, unassuming, hard-working and above all exceedingly selfless and philanthropic making a difference to the lives of vulnerable people in the local and wider community.
Mrs Lynne Grieves from Cramlington was awarded the BEM for services to nursing during Covid-19 at Northlea Court Care Home. Lynne was the first manager at Northlea and more recently joined the nursing team in August 2019 as a bank nurse covering nights. Throughout the pandemic, Lynne would look after the care and welfare of the residents throughout the night assessing, planning and implementing care alongside other care staff. She ensured residents were well looked after and if needed, Lynne would contact the out-of-hours doctors or pandemic services. Lynne was working seven nights a week, helping the team maintain strict systems of control. In the early pandemic, Lynne chose to stay at home to shield her mother who had several health issues, but swiftly realised that her work was as a nurse and so moved in to Northlea. She worked nights, was a permanent fixture in the home, and was a real support to the nursing team, always being there in the building and helping with advice and help. Lynne stayed in the home for 12 weeks and in time moved back to resume her mother’s care. The impact of this selfless act was that the residents, staff and families felt safe, secure and reassured.
Mrs Rhona Dunn aged 81 from Morpeth was awarded her BEM for her voluntary work which started in 1957 as a Boys’ Brigade officer. She has always encouraged the boys to achieve the best of their ability and many ‘old boys’ thank her for influencing them to do well. She was Brigade Training Officer and made an honorary Vice President. As well as the Boys’ Brigade she works with Contact, Rotary, Barnabas, Sanctuary, Red Cross, the Methodist Church, Changing Lives and has changed lives for the better. Victims of the Morpeth Flood in 2008 were reinstated in their homes as soon as possible as Rhona was instrumental in setting up a warehouse for donated household goods and furniture and cleaning up houses in preparation for incoming tradespeople. Many local and national charities benefited substantially from her activities: zipwires, sleep-outs and abseiling. She has a talent roping people in to take part. In her work at Contact Mental Health Group, as Chair of Trustees and manager she spends countless hours helping members utilising her network of community and agency contacts and knowledge in benefits, counselling, finance and support.
Her Grace, The Duchess of Northumberland said: “To receive a British Empire Medal is a fantastic achievement and I am delighted to be able to present these awards to four very worthy recipients. Their utter determination, hard work and dedication to help and support their communities over their lifetime is truly commendable. They are a credit to Northumberland and an inspiration to us all.”